Increased tourist arrivals in July, but levels below half of 2019 / Malta News Briefing – Wednesday 15 September 2021

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Covid-19 Update – Malta’s 450th death: 32 new cases of coronavirus were reported on Wednesday, while 60 patients recovered. This means that there are now 718 active cases of Covid in Malta, with 25 patients being treated at Mater Dei Hospital. The number of persons in intensive care has gone up to five. Meanwhile, an 88-year-old woman became Malta’s 450th victim.

Increased tourist arrivals in July, but levels still at half of 2019: Tourist arrivals increased in July, according to NSO data, but were still less than half the amount visiting Malta in 2019. Total inbound visitors for July 2021 were estimated at 121,311, while total nights spent amounted to 1,118,871. During the month under review, a total of 105,942 inbound tourists visited Malta for holiday purposes, followed by 5,099 tourists for business purposes. The largest share of inbound tourists were aged between 25-44. French and Italian residents comprised 29.4 per cent of total inbound tourists.

Commission President welcomes rule of law reforms: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen singled out Malta as she noted positive judicial rule of law reforms, while noting backsliding in Hungary and Poland. “Our values are guaranteed by legal order. The protection of the rule of law is not just an aim, but daily hard work and improvement,” she said. She also committed towards legislation for greater protection of the media, as she referred to a number of journalists that lost their lives in the past years, including Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Updated 0900 – Newspaper Review

Malta Today says that changes to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements are expected to be announced today. Health Minister Chris Fearne said that the current regime has been reviewed in the biweekly meeting with the Public Health Superintendent.

The Independent asks Transport Minister Ian Borg whether he would consider a referendum on the proposed Gozo-Malta tunnel. He said that the PL stands by its promise to develop the project.

The Times says that the government plans to target tax evaders in the upcoming budget. Conservative estimates by the Finance Ministry calculate that the country loses between €120 and €150 m to VAT evasion every year.

L-Orizzont leads with the opening of the pre-budget consultation period by the government. Speaking at the launch, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said that the 2022 Budget prioritises the environment and pensioners.

In-Nazzjon quotes PN Leader Bernard Grech promising to introduce laws requiring a two-thirds majority in parliament before any development of ODZ land is approved. The party said that the environment needs long-term protection.

The Independent quotes Finance Minister Clyde Caruana that the government will not introduce any new taxes or increase existing ones in the Budget. The minister, however, vowed greater enforcement of VAT collection laws.

L-Orizzont reports that banknote printing company De La Rue announced an expansion project that will create around 100 new jobs. The multi-million investment increases the company’s production capacity to two billion banknotes a year.

In-Nazzjon follows a PN press conference criticising Covid-19 rules forcing travellers arriving from listed countries to quarantine at a hotel even when they have a residence in Malta. The party called on health authorities to revise the measure.

Malta Today reports that the partner of trans social media personality Terry Muscat is facing charges of domestic violence. The accused head-butted the courtroom door and screamed that he did not want to go to prison when the Magistrate denied him bail.

The Times follows a speech by PN Leader Bernard Grech who said that a Nationalist government would not tolerate any development on protected land and would increase open spaces around the country.

Morning Briefing

4,100 people quarantine in hotels – Minister promises changes

Almost 4,100 people were forced to quarantine in Government’s approved hotel facilities until the end of June, including Maltese residents. Numerous reports recently highlighted the plight of travellers who complained that the stay was expensive and the rooms below standard. The 14-day stay costs around €1,400 per room, with some people saying that they ended up sharing the room with strangers to reduce the cost. Health Minister Chris Fearne has promised to modify Malta’s strict travel restrictions following calls to allow residents arriving from ‘dark red countries’ to quarantine at home. More information will be announced in a news conference on Wednesday but it is expected that he will modify the hotel quarantine measure for residents.

Covid-19 Update: Active cases increased again on Wednesday reaching 747, as health authorities reported 50 new cases as opposed to 26 recoveries. 35 patients are currently in hospital, while two are in intensive therapy.

EU Commission President to visit Malta: Von der Leyen will visit Malta tomorrow as the EU transfers the first tranche of €345million in EU funding as part of the recovery and resilience plan approved by the European Commission, TVM reports. She is visiting European leaders to personally present the monies which will be used in different projects and initiatives aiming at helping economies recover.